Thirty-six people will lose their jobs when the Elkem plant closes in Keokuk. Plant Manager Mark Nilsen says the Norwegian corporation that owns it will move production to factories in China and Norway. The plant’s output is used by the metal forging industry, which has been moving overseas for several years.
They used to run a furnace shut down in the 1980s due to lack of demand in the U.S. The volume of demand has slowly declined for years and this year the main customer shut down, inflicting a major hit to sales. He says while some factories are sold to new owners who can use their furnishings in some other industry, it’s not likely with the Keokuk plant, which was built in the 1930s.
The equipment’s pretty specific to what they made there — they “really only do one thing,” Nilsen says, would be pretty hard to retro-fit to some other manufacturing use, and so they’ll mothball the plant and winterize it so everything could be restarted someday. He says there isn’t much possibility of that, though.
Nilsen says they hope all the workers can “turn around and get reemployed” before long. Elkem has a severance package for salaried workers, and next week they’ll start negotiating the effects of the shutdown with the union. The company says a few workers will remain for a while to finish shipping out the remaining finished products and leftover raw materials.